Daniel Suárez signs with Gaunt Brothers Racing for NCS

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 16: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Ford, shares a smile during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 16, 2019 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Gaunt Brothers Racing has signed Daniel Suárez to drive its No. 96 Toyota Camry fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series beginning with the 2020 season the team announced Tuesday.

It will mark Suárez’s fourth year in the NASCAR Cup Series. He faced an uncertain future after being released at the end of 2019 from Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It’s great to be back with Toyota and back in the NASCAR Cup Series,” said the 28-year-old Suárez, who was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico and now calls Huntersville, North Carolina home. “My NASCAR career started off really well and Toyota was a very big part of that. To have them in my corner again gives me a lot of confidence. Gaunt Brothers Racing has something to prove and so do I. We’re committed to each other and we’re going to build each other up.”

Suárez won the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry. His title-winning drive earned him a promotion to Gibbs’ NASCAR Cup Series program where he continued in Toyotas throughout the 2017 and 2018 seasons before joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2019. As the 2020 season is set to get underway, Suárez is happy to be back with the manufacturer who ushered him up the NASCAR ladder and into the elite NASCAR Cup Series.

“We are pleased that Daniel is rejoining the Toyota family in 2020,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president, marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “He has been a member of the Toyota Racing family throughout the majority of his career and contributed greatly to our shared success, most notably in winning the 2016 Xfinity Series championship. We are excited to see Gaunt Brothers Racing move to a fulltime entry next season and thrilled to have Daniel behind the wheel. We look forward to this new partnership.”

Dave Winston will serve as Suárez’s crew chief. The NASCAR veteran comes to Gaunt Brothers Racing from Richard Childress Racing where he was vehicle performance group engineer and also the race engineer for driver Daniel Hemric. Winston has served as a crew chief before, spending 2014 at BK Racing with driver Alex Bowman and 2016 at Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing with driver Michael McDowell. Winston has a degree in mechanical engineering from Florida Atlantic University.

Suárez’s racing career began in 2003 when he competed in go-karts. He is a two-time Mexican national karting champion (2004 and 2008) and twice earned a spot to compete in the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals karting event – 2004 in Spain and 2008 in Italy. In 2008, he joined the mini-stock division – an official support series of the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series. Suárez won 10 races in the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series before coming stateside to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. He kept on winning, scoring three victories in 2013 before transitioning to the Xfinity Series. His championship season in 2016 consisted of three wins, three poles and 19 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes. In winning his first career Xfinity Series race on June 11, 2016 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Suárez became the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR national series race.

Gaunt Brothers Racing traces its roots back to 2010 when it began competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and the Canada-based NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Gaunt Brothers Racing won the 2011 Toyota All-Star Showdown with driver Jason Bowles at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway and scored the pole for the 2011 Streets of Toronto 100 with a track-record qualifying time on the city circuit, with Bowles again at the wheel.

The team said Suárez’s first competitive outing with Gaunt Brothers Racing comes Feb. 9 with Daytona 500 qualifying. While eligible for the non-points Busch Clash on Feb. 9, Suárez and Gaunt Brothers Racing have opted not to compete in the exhibition race to instead focus attention on their preparation for the Daytona 500.

Greg Engle